Coronavirus: Italy's south begs those in the north not to return
Cities beg those in the north not to return and bring virus with them
ROME/DUBAI: As Europe's coronavirus epicentre Italy locked down vast regions in the north to prevent the spread of the virus, some cities and towns in the south are begging their people working there not to return home.
One of the cities is Puglia.
Governor Michele Emiliano in an impassioned plea on Facebook said: "I speak to you as if you were my children, my brothers, my nephews and nieces: Stop and go back.
"Get off at the first train station, do not catch planes... turn your cars around, get off your buses. Do not bring the Lombard, Veneto and Emilia epidemic to Puglia."
To underscore his determination, he signed a decree saying anyone arriving from the vast northern red zone would have to put themselves in quarantine for two weeks.
The unprecedented lockdown was announced by the government overnight and will affect some 16 million inhabitants in the wealthy northern region of Lombardy, centred on the financial capital Milan, and 14 provinces also in the north.
The new measures say people should not enter or leave these areas unless they had proven work-related reasons for doing so or health issues.
The regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto represent 85 per cent of all the 5,883 confirmed cases to date and 92 per cent of the 233 recorded deaths. By comparison, Puglia has had just 26 cases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Italy's "genuine sacrifices".
"The government and the people of Italy are taking bold, courageous steps aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting their country and world," he said in a tweet.
"They are making genuine sacrifices. WHO stands in solidarity with Italy and is here to continue supporting you."
Germany has the second largest number of registered cases in Europe after Italy.
The number of cases there jumped by more than 100 on Saturday, reaching 795 by mid-afternoon.
The number recorded by the Robert Koch Institute stood at 684 in the morning, with large clusters in the west and south.
The total is well over 10 times larger than it was a week ago. There were 66 cases on Feb 29.
In Iran, the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East, the Health Ministry said 194 people had died from Covid-19 and 6,566 were now infected.
In the US, the number of cases rose past 400 with 19 deaths confirmed so far, mainly in the west coast state of Washington.
Two latest deaths were in Washington's King County, the hardest-hit area after the virus spread among residents at a nursing facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. The first deaths on the East Coast were also announced late on Friday, with two people succumbing in Florida.
In New York, the number of confirmed cases rose by 13 on Saturday to a statewide total of 89 people, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. He issued a declaration of emergency.
"It allows expedited purchasing and expedited hiring, which is what we need right now," Mr Cuomo said.
Kansas, Missouri and Washington DC have also announced their first cases. - AFP, REUTERS